September 12, 2009. That is a day I will always remember because it was the first time I took a course off my bucket list, only to put it right back on.
That is the day when golf wasn’t just a game for me – it was an experience – and it was the best experience on a golf course I have ever had.
One Lonely Fir Tree Stands On The Horizon Of The Naturally Rugged Chambers Bay Landscape – All Photo Images Credit Gayle Moss
Sounds over the top, I know, but I swear, I still think about it every night when I’m lying in bed.
I scored horribly, 3-putted 11 out of 18 greens and still walked away feeling like a winner. Now, I had very high expectations of Chambers Bay, given it was chosen for the 2010US Amateur and 2015 US Open.
It also ranked 44 in NA in this month’sGolf Digest Magazine (77th in the world).
Usually high expectations area sure sign that I’ll be disappointed when I actually get there.
But not this time…as high as my expectations were, Chambers Bay stillexceeded them.
The course is stunning in a “from another planet” sort ofway.
There are no azaleas, only 1 lonely fir on the course…and waste areas everywhere to trap you.
But it is breathtaking in its rugged beauty. And that’s not all… From the moment we stepped out of our car, we were surrounded with staff looking to help us.
Customer service was exceptional, from the pro shop staff, to the bus driver who took our clubs down to the course, to the kid who carried our clubs to the range, to the starter who bid us “play well” and finally the caddies themselves who pampered us from tee to green.
I can’t really explain it, but at Chambers Bay, I felt special. As I walked up the first fairway – 8 of us in a row heading to our balls (4 players with 4 caddies), I felt like Michelle Wie playing at the Sony.
Of course I don’t have her looks, age or talent, but that didn’t matter.
It was just me and 7 men out there and I couldn’t have been happier (Okay, maybe I was a little nervous too).
Here we are overlooking the 12th hole with Charles’ caddie, Dennis Scott, on the left and my very own “Fluff”- caddie extraordinaire – Ed Timbers on the right. You couldn’t find two nicer guys anywhere.
We were ready a bit earlier and so I had a chance to watch some players tee off.
I can’t tell you how many guys hit their balls way up on to this big hill that divides the 1st and 10th fairways. My husband coined it “Slicer’s Mountain”.
I remember watching those players and caddies climb up the side of that very steep hill in search for lost balls, laughing out loud, saying, “Give it up boys, they’re gone!”
At that point, my caddie turned to me and said, “I love your attitude already – I just love it!” Ed and I had bonded. But… the last laugh was on me.
My ball landed in a fairway bunker on that same hole (actually it was a waste area). Ed told me to take a wedge and “just get it out”.
He’d seen my less than stellar sand play while I was warming up and I could tell he had about as much faith in my ability to get out of the sand as the guys ahead of us finding their ball in the long fescue.
But, I decided I was going to think positively and just pick that ball right off the sand with my 6 iron. Ed looked a bit skeptical, but, always positive, he handed me my club and told me it was the perfect club.
I hit a beauty that landed on the green. Ed looked even happier than I felt and knuckle-rapped me as I crawled out of the pit. It was a great feeling and set the stage for a wonderful day.
Now Chambers Bay is one of those courses that truly deserves a hole-by-hole commentary, but no matter what I told you, I couldn’t possibly do it justice. You just have to play it. AND…I can’t stress enough the value of a caddie on this course.
Not only do they know the course and greens inside and out (Ed has been there since it opened in 2007 and caddied over 400 times), they make golf a team sport. It’s so much more fun having someone in your camp.
It’s also fun to hear the stories of past players they caddied for, like the one about the 2 Scottish guys playing with two Americans, and one of the young Americans was having a tough day.
He hooked his tee shot about 20 yards into the crap and his friend sympathetically said, “Go ahead…take a mulligan”. So as they were walking up the fairway, the guy from Scotland goes, “You know what we call a mulligan in Scotland, don’t ya laddie?” “What’s that?” says the kid. “You’re lying 3.”
Mark Twain once said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.” I wonder what he’d say about Chambers Bay – an 7-8 mile hike with more uphill climbs than down (Now, HOW does THAT happen?). But it is gorgeous.
Here’s the view from the #1 handicap, par 5, 8th hole, looking to the right as you drag yourself up the long uphill fairway to the green. It was nice to have an excuse to stop to take this picture.
The 10th was Ed’s favorite in terms of its Kodak moment potential But my favorite was the view from the 14th. It was also my favorite hole for many other reasons, not the least of which my tee box was ~80 yards closer to the green than my compatriots.
Chambers Bay is a work in progress. The fairways, greens and rough are all fescue and like true links courses, you can’t often tell when the fairway ends and the greens begin.
With tight lies and huge undulating greens, chip and run is the shot you want to perfect for this course. You won’t need your Phil-ee Flop on this baby.
It’s not ready yet for the PGA, but in 2015, when the fescue hits its prime, it will be a very tough trek for even the best players in the world.
Greens were running at about 9.5 (on the stimpmeter) and tricky doesn’t even begin to describe them.
Apparently at a pretty slow 10.5 pace (which is the plan for the U.S. Open), even pros’ balls will have trouble staying on the putting surface according to Ed. And… you really have to be creative.
More than once, Ed would tell me, “Don’t be shy – putt it past the hole – it will roll back”.
Given the size of some of these greens, it felt like I had to grip it and rip it with my putter more than once.
Although we had the perfect weather – 85 degrees with no wind – the course was designed for a SW wind – that’s apparently when the teeth come out on Chambers Bay.
I hope it shows its canines when the U.S. Open is here. It would be fun to watch Tiger and Phil battle Mother Nature in all her glory.
After playing Chambers Bay, I am even more determined than ever to head to Scotland to play links golf there.
According to the bus driver, they actually put sand all over the fairways at Chambers Bay to mimic the wind blowing the sand off the beach onto St. Andrews. Interesting. Maybe they should add a stone bridge on 18 too.
Charles’ caddie, Dennis said during the round, “Golf is a drug”. And if that’s true, then for me, Chambers Bay is pure, uncut heroin.